Final Score: Lakers 68, Timberwolves 81
And so went the most-hyped summer league game in recent memory.
The anticipation beforehand was palpable, and why wouldn’t it be? A summer league game feature at least two fifths of each team’s potential starting five and had the top two picks facing off against each other for the first time ever.
Add to that the intrigue that comes with Julius Randle’s return to the court and you had a standing-room-only atmosphere. UNLV’s Thomas & Mack Center had to pull back the curtains of the upper deck to fit fans who couldn’t find a seat in the lower bowl.
To those who wondered if the Lakers “brand” could handle two years of tanking, there’s your answer, at least for now.
The game started on a high note, as the names those fans came to see lived up to the price of admission.
For the cast majority of the game, Jordan Clarkson was the best player on the court for the Lakers. His counterpart, fellow second-year point guard Zach LaVine was similarly impressive. They finished with 23 and 24 points respectively.
D’Angelo Russell started well, faded a bit and recovered well enough to finish with a stat line of 8 points, 6 assists and 5 rebounds. It’s hard to expect much rhythm in the first live action with the Lakers’ pick-and-rolls, and the lack thereof showed for large portions of the game (Russell tallied 5 turnovers). Watch for that to improve as various combinations running those sets grow more accustomed to each other.
Randle probably looked the most rusty of the Lakers’ “big three.” His shot looked short, as if he was aiming the ball to the basket versus releasing the shot confidently. Once he gained some kind of rhythm, though, he showcased the strength the coaching staff and his teammates have been raving about. He only played 20 minutes and will skip tomorrow’s game. He said after the game he doesn’t like it, but that he understands why the team is being cautious.
The Lakers wound up losing the game, as their offense struggled to produce down the stretch. A loss today is obviously inauspicious, given the excitement leading into the event, but there was plenty positive to take away.
All in all, the game went about as expected. Rookies Russell and Karl-Anthony Towns showed flashes, but the best players on the court were the ones who’d been there before. The Lakers will face Jahlil Okafor and the Philadelphia 76ers Saturday.
Stat of the day: Tarik Black finished with 10 fouls – he narrowly missed a triple double, notching 9 points and 13 rebounds. Welcome to summer league.